Circular City + Living Systems Lab

October 1, 2020

Adaptive Reuse as Carbon Adaptation: Urban Food Production in the under-used Parking Garages of the Future


This research collaboration between the Circular City + Living Systems (CCLS) research lab and the architecture practice Weber Thompson addresses the intersection of three critical topics affecting the carbon footprint of the built environment: adaptive reuse of existing buildings, increased availability of electric and autonomous vehicles, and food production in cities. This study measures and compares the relative impact of the operational carbon impact reduction of an eventual transition to electric autonomous vehicles, the embodied carbon reduction of adaptive building reuse, and the potential to sequester carbon as a benefit from living systems in urban aquaponics operations in adapted parking garages. Aquaponics, the combination of aquaculture and hydroponic growing systems, optimizes food, water, energy, and waste flows and reduces the need for resource input through high efficiency, cyclical exchanges. Integrating and scaling up aquaponic food production systems into cities provides an innovative approach to producing sustainable urban food and mitigating urban environmental challenges. Through case study research, resource and scale analysis, this project leverages collaboration between practice and academia to explore the carbon impact of a promising near-future adaptive reuse of parking garages for urban food production. The relative embodied carbon impacts of adaptive building reuse, operational carbon reduction of transition to autonomous electric vehicles, and sequestration of carbon through urban aquaponics operations are measured and compared to advance and assess the viability of an innovative adaptive reuse concept.


Harrel, M., Horn, E., Proksch, G. (2020) Adaptive Reuse as Carbon Adaptation: Urban Food Production in the under-used Parking Garages of the Future. Carbon: 2020 AIA/ACSA Intersections Research Conference, Philadelphia, PA, October 1-3, 2020, Washington, DC: ACSA Press, 2020